Women in Music Deserve anApology

Red (Taylor’s Version) album cover.

Since the beginning of time, women have received criticism for expressing themselves in public, and the music industry is no exception. In fact, the best modern examples of the mistreatment of women in music by the media are Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo, who dominated the charts in 2021.

With Olivia Rodrigo’s release of her hit debut album “Sour” and Taylor Swift’s “Red (Taylor’s Version)”, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” and “evermore”, these two women appeared on the charts frequently throughout 2021. With that success, though, came a barrage of criticism from the media and the general public, solely because these women chose to write honestly about their own experiences.

With the release of Olivia Rodrigo’s debut studio album, the media did not waste time before attempting to paint her as a “crazy ex-girlfriend” or a “vengeful person.” While Olivia has never told any news outlet who her music may or may not be about, she still receives ten times as much criticism as men in the industry because the emotions that she expresses in her music are ones that society shames young women for even daring to talk about.

Rumors circulated about Olivia being a bad person, for no other reason than the fact that she is a woman who writes about her own experiences. Male artists like Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran and others always been able to avoid this intense dissection of them and their craft, but Olivia is still expected to write about “easy” emotions.

When Taylor Swift released “Red (Taylor’s Version)”, the same phenomena occurred again. Taylor is no stranger to misogyny in the music industry. The narratives about her created by those who wish to tear down successful women have become a focal point.

News outlets such as Barstool Sports levied harsh criticism over this re-recording, saying, “this chick is bats**t crazy”. This was a response to Taylor’s savvy business decision to re-record her first six albums in order to take ownership of her work- the work that men with power in the industry took away from her. Instead, Barstool took it upon themselves to turn this re-release into a criticism of Taylor’s personal life, which she has stayed private since her career began.

Despite the fact that Taylor has been in a relationship for over five years, the public is quick to label her as a “serial dater” or a “snake”, yet men who write music about their life experiences are never met with this same level of scrutiny.

Despite the hatred and vitriol that many have towards both of these women, they have still persisted through all these controversies, something many could not even dream of doing. In the past year alone, Taylor Swift has won Album of the Year for her indie-pop album folklore, becoming the first woman to win Album Of The Year three times, and has since been nominated for AOTY with its sister album “evermore’. Olivia Rodrigo has made a strong and impactful debut, earning six Grammy nominations in total, and topping the charts a record number of times.

All this to say, women are too often relentlessly shamed for expressing complex and valid emotions, and the sexism in music has run rampant since the music industry was in its youth, yet these women still remain powerful and successful figures of our generation. They not only deserve our respect for the hardships they have been put through, they also deserve an apology.

-Skye Graham ’23

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